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A Soft And Melting Ultion

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Growing up, William T. Spears had always been in awe of a storm’s destructive power. The raw strength of nature could level buildings, uproot trees and cars, and drown whole towns in its fury. But for William, a young and bookish child, it had been nothing but comforting for him.

He adored the pounding of rain on his windows, capturing the world in its droplets. Its beat let him drift off to sleep, or empowered him when he felt alone. The shouting of the inky black clouds as they flashed and shook the earth made his heart race in excitement. And something about growing up that way meant that maybe he felt just a little invinceable against them — they meant him no harm.

But nature was a fickle mistress; it did not favour anyone in particular, and William was no exception.

One night, as he drove him from work, a powerful thunderstorm raged all around him. William wore a little smile in the dark, feeling safe and protected from the torrents of icy rain thrashing against his vehicle. It had been a long day, but things were good, and soon he’d be home with a nice cup of coffee to sip while he read by the fire.

He was very intelligent, and hyper-vigilant of the road as he navigated it…but what followed was completely out of his own control. As he passed through a rather dilapidated suburb on the way to his quite respectable home, nature turned on him too.

Due to the wet road, the driver of a semi lost control of the vehicle, flying through a red light, and positively T-boning William’s car off the side of the road. It went rolling down the hill, its driver thrown about within it like a ragdoll.

As William covered his head and tried not to die, all he could think was how very stupid and naive he had been. Then the car plummeted into a tree, and all the lights went out.

----


The hideous sounds of metal crunching against metal and earth carried through the freezing night air, and into the ears of one Sebastian Michaelis. The haggard man looked up from the meager little saucepan he was heating on his stove when he heard the sounds creep through his paper thin walls. Even he couldn’t ignore it; he turned the stove off and ventured outside with a tattered umbrella to investigate the sound.

The last thing he expected was to find a mangled and bleeding man trapped in a totaled car in the woods right by his little shack of a house. The very last thing he expected was that this person be a man that he knew — a psychiatrist he’d visited once upon a time.

If left unattended, the man would bleed out in his car; and if he was really unlucky the fuel line would rupture and the car would explode.

Fire…no, don’t think of fire…

With little regard to his own safety, Sebastian seized the man round the wrist without a second thought and dragged him through the broken glass window, pulling him into his dark and silent little house.

Fate had personally hand-delivered poor William to Sebastian’s doorstep; clearly, it had something in store for them, and Sebastian was very keen to find out what.

One minute William had been driving home, enjoying the storm…and the next minute, his skeleton had been contorted like a human pretzel. Luckily, he did not have to endure this horrific state of being, because he was deeply unconscious.

It was three days out of his life that he remained in that state, and it was very possible he would have died without the intervention of one local hermit.

In his teenage years, William had often fantasized of becoming a stormchaser. Childish dreams though they were, if he had to choose how he died, maybe a storm would not have been the worst way. It reminded him of the good times in his childhood, and it reminded him of his beloved father. But William had no desire to die, so it was certainly a miracle when he woke one morning in a small, grey little bed, he could see a little sunlight from a window near the ceiling, and he was not in any pain.

Clearly, fate was on his side.

The smell of coffee filled the air — nothing fancy, nothing fresh roasted, but simply powdered instant coffee. It was pleasant and airy, and there was a helping of it by William’s bed, sitting atop a rickety table in a chipped mug.

A door opened somewhere above William’s head, and there came the sound of quiet footsteps down a set of creaky wooden stairs. Sebastian appeared with a small plate of toast, buttered (margarine) and cut into triangles, and he glanced over at William carefully.

“Oh…you’re awake! Thank goodness,” he uttered in surprise, hurrying over to William’s side and setting the plate of toast down. “I’m not sure what I was going to do if you were unconscious for much longer. How are you feeling…?”

William was very drowsy, and his body felt stiff like cement. Nonetheless, he perked up when his saviour entered the room, especially seeing the plate of food being carried. After three days of being totally unconscious, he was starving .

“Uh..hello, there..” William murmured, looking up at the tall man with long, dark hair. Good heavens…he was a fine sight to behold, if it weren’t for those dark, unhappy eyes. What kind of life had this person had?

William went to adjust his glasses, as was his customary tic, only for dull pain to shoot up his side as he moved his arm.

“Hh…?” Looking down, the brunet beheld his naked chest, pale skin bruised terribly and deep wounds that had been stitched and bandaged. The site made William’s stomach flop uncomfortably, and a weak groan left his chest as he suddenly remembered everything of the past night, from the moment he left work to the moment he collided with that tree.

“Oh..oh, my god…!”

A very reserved man, William was not one to make such an emotional utterance…but if any situation called for it, it was this one. William had to avert his eyes in distress..He couldn’t dare look under the blankets. Something told him it was not good.

Yet, eventually, he still pulled himself together and meet Sebastian’s eyes.
   

“W-who are you?” he asked hesitantly. Did this person…save his life that night?

“I am a doctor,” Sebastian replied, kneeling by William’s side at the bed and checking over the bandages he’d changed the night before. “My name is Sebastian Michaelis. You’re in quite a state, aren’t you…? Frankly, I think you’re lucky to be alive. You might not be if I hadn’t been awake to hear your car come crashing down into the wood by my house.”

He checked injuries very carefully, feeling William’s pulse, gently setting the plate of toast onto William’s lap. There was even an IV in William’s arm, giving him fluids and at least keeping him hydrated. “But you are alive, and I’m glad for it,” he added, surveying the IV.

It was a very shabby room with a shabby bed and sheets, but it was all clean. Clearly, Sebastian was poor, but he valued cleanliness. Nothing smelled bad; merely old and worn. The blankets on the bed were mismatched and faded, and the things like the tableware were clearly secondhand. The handsome doctor himself looked very worn, and not just his clothes.

He sighed softly after checking William’s vitals. “I’m glad you’ve made it,” he repeated in relief. “Now that you’re finally awake, will you tell me your name?”

William listened to the man speaking to him — Sebastian had a definite tone of authority, much as William himself did — and let out a small sigh of relief.

A doctor. Thank goodness. Even though looking around, William’s OCD was set off by the disorganization, it was by no means dirty, or even untidy. Things just didn’t match. The home seemed more like a miner’s shack, maybe…? Certainly not any place a doctor should be living, and William had the title to attest to it.

I certainly hope everything has been disinfected.

“My name is…William T. Spears…” the brunet replied after a brief moment of recollection. “I’m a doctor, too — a clinical psychologist…I…”

Though William was making his best efforts to be observational, the drugs that were no doubt in his system were making it very difficult. Things were fuzzy, his mind was sluggish. It was an awful feeling, but he was not in pain.

“Thank you for…treating me. I am eternally grateful…to you.”

William was a peculiar man. He had handsome Eurasian features, but his eyes were a glacial grey-blue, the same as his father’s. It was a genetic oddity he was proud of, but it always made him look very stern. So it was a testament to his gratitude when the corners of his eyes crinkled warmly as he thanked the doctor.

“Forgive my asking…but…why have you not taken me to a h…a hospital?”

Sebastian offered the plate of toast, which was still warm, to his guest. “Please, don’t mention it. I swore an oath as a doctor to protect all patients in my care. Now, to answer your question…your injuries were critical,” he replied with a grave tone and a furrowed brow. “I had to take you in myself. I have no telephone or means of safely transporting you to a hospital. Your condition was so bad I had to keep constant watch on you…I couldn’t risk leaving to go find help.”

He glanced away. “I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if you’d died while I was gone,” he added very quietly. “No…it was best that I remained here with you.”

But his gaze softened and he returned his eye contact. “But now that you’re awake, I know that your condition has improved considerably. I’d like to keep a close eye on you for just a little longer before I attempt to transfer you to a hospital.”

William looked down at the plate, and slowly picked up the toast to nibble on. “Could you…not call an ambulance? I’ll pay all of the...costs…” he assured him. "Since…I’m sure you’re not hiding an X-ray machine somewhere in this home…and I fear I may have some broken bones…”

He grasped the hem of his blanket, again deciding if he should check on the damage. Curiosity got the better of him in the end, and he took a peek.

"Shit.”

There were definitely broken bones down there, and they didn’t look like they’d been set. William was distraught to discover both his knees were shattered, his left femur had what looked like an open break, and judging by the irregular shape of his shins, those were broken too. No ankle that was that swollen and bruised could still be intact, so he might as well write that off…

William put his plate aside, now feeling decidedly nauseous. He was speechless, and basically wanted to cry. But he was not the type, and instead chose to take a few deep, shuddering breaths to calm himself.

How tragic; his once pale, athletic body was mangled and covered in angry purple bruises and vicious cuts.

William vaguely recalled a useless fact from medical school — you could die from too much bruising. He supposed he wasn’t in danger of that now they’d all come up, though…

“Oh…I’m really…in bad shape, a-aren’t I…?” he mumbled, clumsily adjusting his glasses with the other hand — this didn’t hurt quite so much.

“I don’t have a telephone,” Sebastian repeated with sympathy. “I don’t make much…I pay my rent, I pay for utilities, and I pay for groceries. What I have here is what I could spare from my practice. A phone is a luxury I can’t afford, unfortunately. I can’t call for an ambulance.”

He winced and glanced away as William assessed his injuries; he’d seen it from many patients waking up for the first time, but this was his first time witnessing it when the patient had no casts and could see how bad the injuries really were. Needless to say, they were bad.

“Yes,” Sebastian agreed, setting a hand on William’s back. “I’m sorry. I’ve done everything I can for you so far. Now that you’re conscious, I’ll be able to go get you the rest of the help you need. And I know you aren’t feeling well, having seen your injuries, but please eat what you can. It’s been three days, Mr. Spears. I need you to get something into your stomach. Toast and coffee aren’t much…but we must be gentle to your digestive system.”

William stared at him for a long moment. Sebastian had a kind, tired face, but right now alarm bells were going off in William’s head. There was absolutely no doctor in any civilized country that did not have a phone. They needed to be reached at all times after all. As if William hadn’t been panicking enough, the seed of fear began to bloom within his churning belly.

“What if I have…i-internal bleeding…?” he asked, wiping sweat from his forehead. “Please, you must go…and get help…I could die.” He reached out for Sebastian with a trembling, battered hand. “You said you didn’t want that, remember…?”

Even if Sebastian had the best of intentions, stupidity was dangerous. Even if he was just a man living in poverty who wanted to help out, and lying to keep William calm…he was doing much more damage by keeping the man here.

This was not how William wanted to go out.

“You don’t have internal bleeding; I can tell you that much,” Sebastian reassured him, taking his hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. “I won’t let you die. You’re safe with me. I’m going to get you help, I promise…”

As luck or fate would have it, thunder clapped overhead, and both men glanced up at the ceiling, listening to the sound roll over them. Rain began to patter against the window, and Sebastian crossed the room to look out it. “Oh, no,” he murmured, clutching the worn old curtain. “I thought the storm had stopped…! The sun was out only a moment ago, wasn’t it? Damn it… damn it.”

He turned back toward William with a furrow in his brow. “The roads have been closed for the past few days because of flooding, and if this storm persists, that flooding is only going to get worse. It’s not safe to travel; the flooding could be making sinkholes or worse.”

He joined William’s side again and rested his hand over William’s. “Please…you have nothing to fear. I’m here to take care of you. I have enough food and supplies to take care of you for several more days. I’ll need to change your bandages as well, and I’m sure you must be wanting a bath. You’re safe here.”

For once, William was not happy to hear the sound of rain. Has it turned against me entirely…? My favourite, most calming occurence?

“…That’s…very unfortunate,” he said with a deep sigh, but at least he felt a lot more at ease knowing Sebastian would have gone for help if not for the storm outside. “…Was the storm really so bad?” he asked, closing his eyes and letting the stress leave his shoulders. “Strange...we don’t usually get such serious storms around here…”

Truth be told, the hand of an attractive man in his own was…very relaxing. It had been too long since he’d last felt such a thing. And if Sebastian knew he didn’t have internal bleeding, then he really must be a doctor. William could breathe.

“I suppose I am…really lucky you found me…Dr. Mic…Micah? Michaels? Sorry, I don’t…quite r-remember…”

Looking up towards the window by the roof, the brunet wondered if he was in a basement . Is that…safer from flooding? In his disoriented state, William wasn’t sure. It certainly was safer from storms.

“You’ve…had to do a lot for me, the last few days, huh…?” he said suddenly. It was amazing that he had enough blood left in his body to blush…William still had the grace to be embarrassed.

 

“Michaelis,” Sebastian repeated patiently, gently pressing the hot coffee mug into William’s hands and warming his fingers with it. “Dr. Sebastian Michaelis. Please…think nothing of it. It’s my job as a doctor, after all. Please don’t be embarrassed.”

Sebastian glanced at the window again with William, following his gaze. “This storm has been very unusual. I heard weather reports on the radio calling it a cyclone,” he added in a somber voice. “I’m not sure at all when it will finally dissipate. We’ll have to keep waiting and see, but…neither of us want that to be much longer at all.”

The doctor returned his gaze to his patient and gave him a friendly smile. “Now, Mr. Spears…how much do you remember? The state of your car wasn’t very pretty when I found you. Do you remember what caused the accident? It looked like far too much damage to be hydroplaning.”

“It’s…it’s ‘Dr.’…Spears…’ William answered softly, taking the cup and raising it to his lips.

He was used to low quality coffee. It was fine, frankly delicious, to sip the warm beverage. Sebastian’s home was frigid and, as the rain starting coming in, William noticed the roof starting to leak. There were carefully positioned buckets to take care of that problem, however.

God…William could barely concentrate. Sebastian’s words were blurring into each other, and William’s legs were starting to throb. He could feel it, dull and dark.

“A truck rammed me off the road and down a hill….I hit a tree. I…can’t believe I actually survived…”

Another sip. William was calm, even if he was starting to hurt.

 

“You’re extraordinarily lucky that I live right here where you crashed,” Sebastian told him with a charming smile. “If I didn’t, I honestly doubt you would have survived. Between your injuries and the weather, you would have bled out if you hadn’t died from exposure. Frankly, I haven’t heard any emergency vehicles come this way or on the road up on the hill. Whoever was in that truck must not have reported an accident.”

Sebastian set to work on replacing some of William’s bandages. “Either they must have thought they hit a deer, or they truly committed a hit and run crime. People are foul…” He sighed. “I’m sorry. I truly am. But what matters is that you did survive and you’re in my care. I’m only sorry it couldn’t be more…ah…well, luxurious.”

Sebastian’s words continued to run over William’s head like water over a riverbank. The brunet blinked sleepily in response, his fuzzy gaze focused on that dazzling smile of Sebastian’s.

“Not…an issue…” William answered. “I think I won out…in the bedside manner department.”

Oh, mercy. It wasn’t proper to flirt with a man who saved your life and took you into his home. But when you were doped up on morphine and staring at a man as good looking as Dr. Michaelis, you could hardly be blamed.

 

Sebastian raised an eyebrow at William’s bold, drug-encouraged flirting, but he smiled and shook his head playfully in response. “Flirting with your doctor…honestly, Dr. Spears, how inappropriate.”

 

But he winked to let William know it was all fine, and continued to take care of him with the very best of his abilities.

 

William then finished up his drink. His toast was half eaten at first, but Sebastian convinced him to finish the rest as well. The pain by then was becoming vocal enough that William spoke up about it tentatively, and Sebastian upped the amount of drugs entering his system.

Before William could wonder if that was entirely the wisest move, he’d drifted off into that lovely, pain free wonderland of sleep once more.



---

The next few days passed in a similar manner, and the rain continued to pour relentlessly down upon the quiet little house at the edge of the woods, preventing the charitable doctor from taking his patient to a proper hospital. The many pails places across the house to catch leaks in the roof were emptied out again and again, but the cellar in which William was cared for never flooded.

Sebastian would bring William coffee and humble but warm meals at regular intervals, and kept him company while he ate and slowly grew stronger. Even if there was nothing Sebastian could do for the moment to treat William’s badly injured legs, he could at the very least give him the drugs that took the pain away. It was a good enough compromise. Sebastian was skilled enough to not allow his patient to die, and he was very determined to keep him alive and as comfortable as possible.

The fourth morning since William’s awakening marked a week since he’d been under Sebastian’s care. The rain was finally beginning to let up, and Sebastian brought William a hot meal for breakfast as usual. Coffee and scrambled eggs today, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. It was a good meal for all its simplicity.

“How are you feeling this morning, William?” Sebastian asked his patient with a kind and concerned smile upon giving him his meal.

For William, those days had been a very drug-hazed blur. Deep down, a seed of anxiety was blooming at the thought of what it would be like not to be on the morphine, and he knew this couldn’t exactly be healthy. But what did he know? He was too strung-out to think clearly, half the time. Either way, Sebastian had been beyond hospitable, tending to his every need with an amiable smile. William found it humiliating, naturally, but it wasn’t anyway near as bad as it would be if he was actually sober. For that, he was thankful.
  
“I’m rather well today, doctor,” he answered, nibbling his breakfast. “It has not…rained…since I woke up. I’m…ready to go to the hospital.” Looking up, he gave Sebastian a sleepy smile. “Finally be able to…get fixed up and move on with life.”

Sebastian, however, frowned a little in concern. “Even if the rain is finally letting up, there is still the concern of flooded roads and valleys,” he replied as he crossed his arms over his chest. “It could be immensely dangerous…don’t you think we should wait another day or so and wait for the roads to dry?”

He unfolded his arms to draw the curtain on the window aside, and he looked out at the world. The rain had stopped, but the ground was still saturated. It would be a while before the mud dried and became dirt again.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s safe yet.”

William deflated a little, but he’d come to trust Sebastian and Sebastian clearly knew best. Though, it was hard to judge a man when you’d both talked so little about anything. In fact, Sebastian keeping him company was...eerily silent at times. The atmosphere often felt heavy.

“I...guess you’re right,” William answered with a little sigh. What could he do?

---

Then the next day went by, and the next. The rain didn’t come back, and birds sang in the trees outside. By now, William was growing quite anxious that his legs would heal the wrong way if left unattended for any longer. It had been a week since the crash, hadn’t it?  He’d already tried asking for his phone to call an ambulance here, but his raven-haired saviour said he hadn’t found one on him after the crash.

“Sebastian,” he said once he’d had his breakfast that day. “It’s time I go to the hospital. Please take me.”

Sebastian’s brow furrowed the way it always did when he was about to deny William this request. He glanced away, looking deeply troubled, and purses his lips. “I just don’t think that’s wise, yet,” he said quietly, avoiding William’s gaze. “It could still be dangerous. The roads here aren’t paved. I don’t know what they’re going to look like after such a storm.”

 

Looking injured, he glanced briefly into William’s eyes. “Are you so eager to leave my care? Have I not been enough for you?”

 

William blinked. He hadn’t had his dose administered for today, so he was particularly lucid at the moment.

 

He was in an average amount of pain; by now he was having faint palpitations, and with each one came painful throbs in his knees. One knee was at least an inch out of its socket, effectively shortening his leg by the equivalent amount, and the other was just shattered in place. Even wiggling his toes, he felt a sickening crunch in the knee as tendons around it moved amongst the fragments.


He needed those drugs, but his current lucidity awarded him one thing: As a psychologist, he caught onto Sebastian’s manipulative behaviour in a heartbeat, and now, he was genuinely beginning to worry that things weren't as they'd seemed.